As I write these words, the water is shut off in my building… according to the management, it has something to do with a water main break. I’m at the mercy of the city water department which in New York can be a very vulnerable spot to be in. Without access all day long, I’m reminded how many times I use water. Brushing my teeth, preparing meals, and this new fad called “washing my hands.” Water is essential to living, and there is really nothing that replaces it.
While there is no substitute for water, we have additional options for other important ingredients of productive and healthy living. In fact, you should have at least three backups for these four key parts of life.
1. Backups for Hobbies
Between work and family responsibilities, there is often little time left over. Everything that moves with momentum and propels the direction of our lives requires a great deal of our attention. While these things can provide a substantial amount of meaning, they can also prevent us from investing in other activities that would fill our souls in specific ways. Developing hobbies that are custom to your individual interests gives you much needed “me” time. Reading, painting, ceramics, running, writing, cooking, working out, crocheting/knitting, gaming… what floats your boat? You may not be able to do them all and may not have the chance to do them daily, but having a hobby “go to” can provide the mental and even emotional break you may need.
Why Three? No matter how much you love your hobby, there may be days when that activity doesn’t do the trick or match your mood; if you paint, you may not feel inspired some days. Other days, the circumstances may not cooperate; if you golf, rainy days can cancel your plans. It’s helpful to have options so that if time, weather, or other conditions interrupt your plans, you have backups. Plus, there’s a deeper level of self-awareness when you know a few the hobbies that feed your soul. Try something new. You may be Picasso and don’t know it yet!
2. 3 9-1-1 Relationships
“Mama said there’d be days like this,” and she wasn’t lying. Whether we anticipate them or not, life throws us curve balls. Your teenager makes bad decisions leading down a dangerous path. The afternoon meeting informs you that you’ve been suddenly laid off from your job. The results are in, and the diagnosis is cancer. Who is the first person you call? If they don’t answer, do you have a second person to contact? When things seem to be falling apart, you need people you can talk to… to vent, to ask for help, to cry, to process, to ask for advice. I call these relationships you can rely on when life’s emergencies arrive my 9-1-1 relationships.
Why Three? Even the best of friends aren’t always available 24/7. Also, not every issue we face in life is completely understood by everyone, even the one we consider to be “our person.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on one individual. In some cases, the issue that may overwhelm us may actually involve the one we rely on the most. It’s certainly not feasible to have seven best friends; that would be exhausting and a challenge to maintain. Ideally, though, you’ll have at least three people in your life with whom you can be your genuine self, even (and especially) during the challenging times.
3. Additional Havens
Superman has the Fortress of Solitude. Batman has the Batcave. I have the coffee shop on 47th and 10th. We all need that place where we can recharge, recover, and reenergize. A special room in your home, a spot at your local library, under a tree in your backyard, your favorite coffee house, a bench in a local park… find a place where you find peace, where you feel relaxed, and where you can let down your guard and let in inspiration.
Why Three? Some days, it’s too cold for the park, the library is closed or every seat in the coffee shop is taken. Two or three backups provide you choices of places to find refuge for the times you need to have some alone time and regroup.
4. More Heroes
When we’re younger, it’s easier to have heroes. We see the world through different eyes, and we haven’t quite encountered the complexities of life. Just the presence of a cape could be all it takes to qualify as one. As we get older, we learn the title of “hero” has to be earned, and the key to maintaining the status is consistency of character, a surprisingly challenging requirement for some. Some are lucky and call their heroes “Mom and Dad.” Others find their heroes in public figures who they read about and admire. Wherever you find them and whoever you choose them to be, find people who inspire you, motivate you, challenge you, teach you, and sharpen you. Heroes help provide a vision of the possibilities that exist within ourselves.
Why Three? Each hero has different strengths. Viewing the heroic nature in a few individuals can help you learn more about them and can also broaden how you see yourself. They could be someone you never meet or someone you’ve spoken with every day of your life. Having different types of heroes helps us venture into deeper levels of self-awareness. Older or younger, known or not, nearby or half a world away, heroes help give us goals, inspiration, and hope.
When it comes to living a healthy life, it’s good to have a plan that offers options and backups. Having three of these four things will help you be prepared when the other shoe drops or when you just need a little peace and quiet and refill your tank. After all, the best way to pour into others is when you are full yourself.